A week with the: Range Rover Evoque 2.2 SD4

Mike Humble:

The lovely looking Evoque 2.2D Prestige.
The lovely looking Evoque 2.2D Prestige.

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In a similar way that Norman Cook aka: Fat Boy Slim titled his smash 1998 album “you’ve come a long way baby” – you could say exactly the same about Land Rover. In a relatively short space of time, the company has gone from a builder of capable, rustic vehicles that traverse almost every degree of longitude or latitude in the World to a true leader and global fashion icon. The Defender needs no explanation and the Discovery, which celebrates 25 years in 2014, morphs into a classier more able creature in an almost Dr Who manner with every re-generation. Range Rover at the premium end is astonishingly impressive with production is running flat out to cope with the demand – quite amazing considering the light at the end of our financial tunnel is currently only a mere candle in the distance.

The Freelander has evolved from a clever yet budget restrained vehicle from the old Rover Group era to a “must have” accessory with a genuine premium feel for the affluent family orientated buyer. And now we come to the model in question – the Evoque which to those, who are not aware, bases its platform with the current Freelander range. By adding the right ingredients of Sci Fi styling, intelligent features with that all important Range Rover kudos, the Evoque has been a deserved and total success story for Jaguar Land Rover. The Evoque has developed from the concept vehicle “Project LRX” that first wooed the public at its debut in 2008, Evoque has remained pretty faithful to the Gerry McGovern styled LRX. The word popular could be an understatement as the Evoque went on to sell just under 90.000 units in its first year alone.

Evoque has an unmistakable Range Rover yet still retains the great shape of the "LRX" concept vehicle. Its a very pretty car indeed.
Evoque has that unmistakable Range Rover stance yet still retains the theme of the “LRX” concept vehicle. Its a very pretty car indeed.

The model that Land Rover kindly supplied featured the i4 series 190Ps 2.2 turbo diesel coupled to a ZF produced auto gearbox with 9… Yes nine forward gears and a fully computerised four wheel drive system. First impressions of a visual nature are very pleasing indeed especially in the Mauritius blue colour with black panoramic roof. Armed with 20” alloys and tyres, the car still looks as striking as the 2008 LRX concept and the sharply raked roof gives an almost Moon buggy kind of futuristic look especially if you are looking at the rear square on. As you would expect of a 21st centuryRange Rover the subtle styling touches such as the wing and bonnet vents look totally fabulous as well as serving a purpose. The hooded rear window looks aggressive while at the same time hides the rear wiper completely out of view when not in use.

…impressively tight shut lines and I could not fault the sheen and application of the paintwork

Practical touches are there for the eye to notice too. Take the front wings for example, made from polycarbonate they flex to take the odd knock or nudge and all four wheel arches are trimmed with a solid looking satin black plastic moulding. The 3 door bodyshell features impressively tight shut lines and I could not fault the sheen and application of the paintwork. An electrically operated tailgate swings up to reveal a decent sized boot that can be extended by dropping the backrests, though I did notice that the seats will not fold completely flat. Some strong looking lash points adorn the carpeted boot floor and there is a 12v power point mounted on the near side to provide a supply for coolboxes and the likes.

Go for the 5 door if you often travel with a full compliment of passengers - 3 door access to the rear is awkward but once you're in its very well appointed.
Go for the 5 door if you often travel with a full compliment of passengers – 3 door access to the rear is awkward but once you’re in its very well appointed.

Chunky door handles reveal an interior that’s easy to get in and out of, but if you regularly carry back seat passengers you most certainly need to opt for the equally pretty looking 5 door model – access to the back is both tight and awkward. Despite the rear seat access, once seated in the rear you find it’s very comfortable and specified. The upgraded Merdian audio system features terrestrial and satellite TV, DVD and every other media input imaginable this side of an Edison cylinder with headrest mounted monitors and some quality wireless headphones. Rear seat passengers can therefore opt to watch / listen to separate media in perfect silence all controlled by their own stylish remote control that stows away in the armrest – The Archers for you while the rug rats bounce and squeal to the antics of Peppa Pig.

…the sound quality has to be heard to be appreciated

The console mounted monitor features a clever “dual view” system that switches off the TV picture in the front once on the move. The passenger still sees a crystal clear picture yet the driver can only view the Sat Nav screen or any other setting selected. Reception of the TV ranged from non existent to poor on the test car but I would put that down to atmospherics owing to some truly dreadful storm weather that has ravaged the South for what seems an eternity. To close the subject of entertainment, I will state here and now that the sound quality has to be heard to be appreciated. There are more speakers than the House of Commons. The end result is simply amazing with a sub woofer so good that you can literally make your ribs rattle – should you try, your ears will distort long before the system will.

The quality theme continues to the rest of the cabin. Sublime leather seats with eye catching white stitch work adorn the cabin and your nostrils are filled with a wonderful aroma of hide and carpet. All four seats are just as good to sit in as they are to look and rear passenger’s even benefit from separate heated cushions. Up in the cockpit both chairs are adjustable in every direction but sideways with a multi memory position facility – you need to try very hard indeed not to find a “just so” driving position. Only one minor gripe was noticeable with the aforementioned, the steering wheel moves for rake / reach as you would expect but this is done manually with a Ye Olde type manual lever system –  other JLR product such as the XF and Discovery use a switch operated electronic system that adds a real touch of class.

The standard of trim is superb with tasteful white stitching and acres of cut pile carpet and sumptuous leather. Front seats are some of the best I have ever encountered.
The standard of trim is superb with tasteful white stitching, acres of cut pile carpet and sumptuous leather. Front seats are some of the best I have ever encountered.

Ergonomically speaking, the Evoque is fairly good. Nearly all of the features and controls work well with the minimum of fuss but you really do need to spend a moment or three to acclimatise yourself with the myriad of buttons, menus and sub menus. The Range Rover Evoque is a vehicle that bristles with technology that just seems to get on and do its thing while you get on with yours. Firing up the 190Ps 2.2 litre i4 turbo diesel engine sees it settle down to a distant thrum once warmed through. Selecting the now familiar rotary gear control into drive gives only there merest of driveline shunt and once the electronic handbrake releases; the forward progression is utterly flawless. Its 9 speed ZF gearbox changes up or down so discreetly that the only clues are the alteration of engine note and subtle fluctuation of the needle on the rev counter – it really is that smooth.

Refinement for most of the occasions offers no cause for complaint either, only if you use the paddle gear selection and nail the pedal to the cut pile does the engine pierce the very pleasant experience. The large 20 inch alloys and bulky wing mirrors can bring some fairly noticeable background noise at high speed, windy days or when on rough topped roads but noticeable is what it is – nothing to cause discomfort or alarm. Motorway cruising at the legal max has the engine turning over well under 2000rpm in top and refinement is generally excellent in most circumstances. Even in some of windiest and rainiest conditions I have ever driven in, the Evoque required little more than moderate corrections of the wheel to maintain an arrow straight cruise. At all times the car feels rock solid in protecting the occupants from whatever was going on in the outside world.

Its light on its toes and handles really well… never fails to raise a smile thanks to the talented Land Rover chassis engineers

A dual zone climate control system that worked hand in glove with the sumptuous and supportive heated leather seats gave no cause for criticism, the car warms up from cold very quickly indeed and icy mornings are combated with a heated windscreen. The Range Rover is impressive away from the main roads too considering the bulk of the car. Its light on its toes and handles really well, the speed you can zip away from roundabout exits never fails to raise a smile thanks to the talented Land Rover chassis engineers who have worked wonders on its Freelander platform. Ride control is well damped and although it does verge on the firm side, only deep ruts or a man swallowing pothole will throw the Evoque off line. The electric steering is a little lifeless but the rack is quick and responsive enough for spirited driving and the traction control reins you in should you step over the mark.

The attention to styling is amazing - I liked these bonnet mounted items that are not only stylish, they serve a purpose too and this sums the car up in general.
The attention to detail is quite amazing – I liked these bonnet mounted items that are not only stylish, they serve a purpose too and this sums the car up in general.

There are of course some credible touches too, the electrically operated tailgate is a godsend when armed with carrier bags and the boot will swallow most items after a day at the sales. Extra space is created thanks to a 50 / 50 rear seat split but the back rests will not drop completely flat. The self folding mirrors feature a floodlighting facility that shines a bright pool of light at ground level after unlocking, really handy in pitch black conditions and the light on the floor depicts a silhouette of an Evoque – very snazzy indeed. Even the kick plates inside the door cannot fail to impress owing to the words “Range Rover” being illuminated in a subtle bluey white neon glow. All round cameras that give offer different views to look, not only helpful when parking in tight spaces, it makes you feel a bit 007 too.

So it would be fair to say then that the Evoque is a class act to follow in almost every way. The styling is futuristic, the quality is good, the brand / image are beyond reproach and in this level of trim – leaves you wanting for little extra. It’s talented on the black stuff while its selectable off road programmes and intelligent four wheel drive will endeavour to look after you if things get slippery when wet. Clever and usable technology is what we have here all wrapped up in a gorgeous package with countless little added touches of class. Evoque doesn’t come cheap of course and that certainly hasn’t stopped the buying public – you get what you pay for in life. So if are looking for a no compromise leisure vehicle that has style and substance in abundance, you have to praise it like you should!

OUR RATING? – 9/10

MAIN STATS:

Model: Evoque 2.2 SD4 Prestige Coupe 3 door

Price: £45655 excluding options

Engine / Gearbox: 2.2 i4 Turbo D with ZF 9 speed gearbox

Power / Torque: 190Ps & 420Nm

Brakes / Suspension: All round vented discs and coil springs

Fuel Consumption: Claimed figure of 48.7mpg combined (38.4 on test)

Co2 / VED: 153 g/Km – Band G

THE HIGHS:

Image second to none –  Great performance – A cracking driver’s car – New 9 speed ZF gearbox works amazingly well – Some jaw dropping styling touches & features – Turns heads – Well appointed – Good build quality and interior craftsmanship – Amazingly good “info-tainment” system – Excellent road manners – Surprisingly practical and capable on & off road.

THE LOWS:

Not cheap at this level – 3 door model rear seat access is cumbersome and difficult – Low speed ride can joggle and fidget – Some tyre and wind noise at speed – Steering adjustment lever looks a bit low rent – Wipers look untidy when parked – Thirsty when hurried along – Styling may seem a little blow dried for some.

 

 

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